Sex in South Korea

Well, it’s something I’ve mentioned repeatedly before, but the sex trade in South Korea is simply rampant. It doesn’t take very long after you’ve come to Korea to realize this. It’s very easy to spot the business cards for what are essentially prostitutes in any busy bar district. You become pretty able to spot a regular motel from a “love motel” that will rent rooms in blocks of hours rather than for a night. But it still takes awhile for everything to really sink in.

I had dinner last night with a large group of people. It was on the house, too. A high school student who attends the language exchange has a father that owns a restaurant, so to show his appreciation for helping his son learn English and talk with foreigners, he hosted like 16 people to eat at his restaurant for free. Pretty generous. It’d take a lot more than that in America for some restauranteur to open his doors to 16 people on his own wallet.

Anyway, after dinner, I went out for some drinks to just relax with some of the other guys. I’ll leave their names out of the discussion we had. It’s not really bad stuff, but then again, no one needs to know what we’ve been talking about. We were in a Wa Bar, which is a chain of “western” bars. “Western” means lots of tables, dimly lit, and very over-priced for anything but Korean beer, and even that is a little over-priced. Also, Wa Bar, is a Korean pun. The pronunciation of Wa Bar, can me “come and try it”, but it is also commonly used when two guys are picking fights with each other like “Yeah, I’d like to see you come and try it, bitch.”

It was three foreigners, counting myself, and a Korean, and we had been talking about women in general, and the Korean said he thought the way we talked about women was naive. At first, I thought he meant because of our age, though one of the foreigners is very close to his own, but he was referring mostly to the difference between how American men go about meeting and picking up women, and what Korean guys do. In Korea, if you’re looking to meet a Korean girl in the natural fashion, there are all these manners and politenesses that you have to go through, just because of the entire “polite” culture of South Korea.

The difference, lies in the fact that if one doesn’t want to fuck around with all the formalities, Korea is the best place for getting around that. There are a myriad of options awaiting the shrewd customer. Let’s just start at the bottom and work our way up.

A “barber shop” is as far as I know the cheapest available option in Korea. These are fairly easy to recognize as well. Everyone knows exactly what a barber pole looks like. In Korea, when one sees two barber poles directly next to each other, not like on either side of a door, this means it’s a “special” barber shop. Now, if you just walk in and don’t say shit, they’ll give your ass a haircut and kick you out the door. However, if you’re in the mood, just ask “아가씨 주세요 (Agassi juseyo)” which is literally “Please give me a lady.” And they shall deliver.

Now, if you’re looking to bang on a budget, sir, this is the place for you. A nice little 아가씨 will only run you as little as 50,000 won, or so I’m told. This translates to about $40 US, or just a little over. Keep in mind, you get what you pay for. I’m told these ladies are not what we would consider “classic beauties”. I think the phrase my Korean friend used was this was the place to go to if you just wanted to “push your dick in something”. Not real romantic. He also made a joke that they cover your face with a hot towel while she works her magic. Not a great sign, if true.

I believe the next step up is also a step backwards in a way. It’s very common around my downtown area especially to see advertisements for 키스방 – kiss rooms. I had always kind of assumed that these were just very pale fronts for prostitution and hadn’t given it much thought. One advertisement I read said that the women offered “confidential conversation”, like guys were only there to get some shit off their chest.

While a price wasn’t discussed, I learned more clearly what a “kiss room” is. It’s actually anything but sexual intercourse. Apparently, guys do go in there to talk, as well. I guess older guys get lonely and just want someone to talk to. And a blowjob. Not a bad business model really. I can’t really say how expensive it is, but considering you see them face-to-face, though sexual intercourse is not part of the deal, it’s probably more expensive than a barber shop.

Next, we’ve got 안마 (an-ma), which literally just means “massage”. There are regular places  you can go and get a massage, but a lot of the 안마 are really just a massage, then the boom-boom. We didn’t talk about it last night, so I’m just comparing what I’ve heard from other people’s first hand accounts. I’ve heard anything from 180,000 won to 230,000 for a massage, and the more expensive one is what has been recommended to me. I guess they give you full service there. Massage, shower, and then the boom-boom. That’s pretty much all I know.

Once you progress past this, they have places simply called 방 – room. When translated into English for whatever purpose, they generally become something like “luxury room”, and these can be found in any KoreaTown in America. Here, the game changes a little. Depending on the area, you pay several hundred thousand won for a room. This can be done by yourself, or in a group of as many as four men, if you want to split the cost and get a discount. The “basic” rate comes with some liquor, a couple beers, maybe a plate of fruit, and then women brought in groups of five for you to choose from.

Now, the money you pay up front is only for the room. How things progress from there is up to you. These girls are not at all required to sleep with you. They’re there just to drink and chat and maybe do some light “playing”. Koreans love the word “play”, and they often use it in strange contexts. Anyway, if you so desire, you can offer to pay for sex and they’ll take you to a “second room” and you can go get it in. However, if you’re a smooth guy that knows how to win over the ladies, you can simply convince a girl to sleep with you for free. It’s like all the fun of prostitution and gambling combined.

These rooms are pretty much the top of the game. I was told about a famous establishment in Seoul called 10 Percent. Because the women that work there are the most beautiful 10% of women in Korea. They are extremely picky in who they hire, and the price reflects this. This is not a place for an average Joe to go on a weekend to paint the town red. Each room starts off at a whopping 3,000,000 won, nearly $3000 US, and it’s customary to tip each girl another 1,000,000 won for her trouble. Once again, sex is also not a set part of the deal, and my Korean friend said the price to take these 10 Percent girls to a “second room” is “enough for a car”, I’m assuming the down payment. Still, the girls that work there are pretty hot. Apparently, one was “picked up” from the business by a recording company and has become a pop star.

I guess, lots of girls go to work there, mainly for exposure, if you’ll allow the pun. The fact of the matter is, the only men that can afford to go there are CEOs of companys and kids that have inherited their money from papa’s hard work. They’ve just got a good chance of impressing someone important there, I suppose.

Of course, I’m sure there are many other routes, but last night was a particularly eye opening experience. I’d never heard it really broken down as far as prices and services rendered before.

Also, interestingly enough, throughout the first part of the conversation, we were sitting next to a table of two girls and two guys. The girls were there by themselves when we showed up, and some guys came later. How I was seated, I didn’t have time to really check them out or anything, and I thought nothing of them. As soon as they left, my Korean friend told me that they were some ladies of the night that the two men had made an appointment for. They wanted to drink a little bit before, because it’s still a bit awkward, so they said they’d meet at the bar. I guess the overall body language of the girls not really enjoying themselves, coupled with the much older men (they didn’t seem that older to me, but I didn’t look carefully) was enough to make my friend 100% sure that they were just there to take the edge off before finding a nice cozy 방 to go to.

It caught me completely off-guard. I had never really even given thet slightest shimmering of thought that the women we were sitting next to were prostitutes. I’ve got a very hard-set image in my mind of what a prostitute should dress like, behave like, and the places they should be seen. And they just did not fit any of those things. It was really shocking. I couldn’t believe it at first, honestly.

Anyway, there you go, in case you were wondering. Now I’ve gotten to thinking… What’s the STD rate like in Korea?

2 Responses to “Sex in South Korea”

  1. Hey Colin. I really enjoy your blog. So I have been in Buldang for almost a month now and am just looking to meet some other English speaking people around the area. send me an e-mail and maybe we can meet up at some point

  2. Hi Colin, very interesting this article, as I wonder what the statistics of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV???

    I am not well versed in the issues of trade in prostitution, but obviously, beyond that America is different, I have no idea how expensive it will be around here but from what I can interpret your story, there is to choose what barbershop looks cheap but the 10% looks very expensive in America there are categories … I was struck by your article because recently I met here in my country to a Korean guy came over to where some friends in Korea and said that women prefer that their husbands go to brothels to satisfy their desires, because that wives are not at risk that husbands have a fixed amamte, that caused surprise me ….

    Health!!!

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